She dug threw her bag, spilling clothes onto the floor around her. It never failed to amaze Ruby how much human crap she’d managed to accumulate in the six months she’d been living with Sam. A fancy pantsuit for when she and Sam were being Agents Mully and Sculder. The deck of Washington DC playing cards for lazy nights of Go Fish or racy nights of strip poker. The Phantom of the Opera souvenir T-shirt and key chain he’d bought her. Of course, none of it seemed especially useful for hiding twenty thousand dollars. She settled on burying the envelope in the folds of one of Sam’s sweatshirts and turned just as Bela said, “Clever. You pick that out yourself?”
Ruby followed her pointed finger to a white T-shirt she’d unearthed. A slinky cartoon blonde wearing a red miniskirt, crop top, and Santa hat was posed in the center. She was the cliché of a man’s Christmas wet dream in every way but for the pitchfork she also held. Scrawled in loopy cursive above her, the “Santa” in “Santa’s Little Helper” had been crossed out and replaced by “Satan.”
Ruby felt her cheeks redden. Stupid, dead, second-rate meat-suit.
She tried to sound indifferent. “Uh, actually, it’s from your boyfriend. For Christmas.”
Ruby stared at the small, badly wrapped package Dean held out to her. Even if he’d offered it hours earlier when they’d sat around the pathetic tree for the official gift-giving, which mostly consisted of Dean making ridiculous ooh-ing and ahh-ing sounds as he opened Mary’s presents and showed them to her, like a four-month-old could possibly care what “Santa” brought, she wouldn’t have believed it.
“It’s for you.” He was trying to sound impatient, she could tell, but there was something else. He sounded almost…nervous? And not the way he did when her demon-ness was freaking him out.
She took it, eyeing him.
He shoved his hands in his pockets. “It’s nothing exciting,” he said gruffly. “I just saw it, and it, uh, made me think of you. So…merry Christmas.”
Ruby heard Sam’s footsteps and glanced over her shoulder to see that he looked equally curious. She tore the wrapping paper and stared down at a T-shirt.
“Dean!” Sam stepped right up behind Ruby, his hand going to the small of her back. At the tone of outrage, Dean’s face fell; it hardened again almost instantly into a defensive scowl. “She’s not Satan’s helper! That’s an awful thing to-”
“No,” Ruby interrupted. “It’s perfect.”
More than Dean could know.
Dean looked at Sam smugly and then smiled at her. It wasn’t until a few seconds later, when the weirdness of that hit her, that Ruby realized she was smiling back.
Possibly, that was a first.
She ducked her head, pretending to examine the shirt more closely. Her cheeks felt flushed. Stupid, dead, second-rate meat-suit.)
“Oh.” Bela looked surprised. Ruby turned away, pretending to busy herself with packing the shirt and all her other stuff back into the duffel.
When she returned to the couch, Bela said, “So I hear you’re a regular hunter these days. What’s that like?”
There was a slightly catty undercurrent to her tone that brought to mind vague memories of the word ‘sociopath’ being thrown around last spring during one of Dean and Bela’s repetitive sniping sessions, but more distracting to Ruby was the way Bela had begun fingering her necklace, an emerald teardrop pendant.
(“So what do you think? You’re a girl. Will she like it?”
Ruby stared at the necklace Dean held out, unable to remember the last time she’d been at such a loss for words. When Dean had asked for her help and said he needed her opinion on something, she’d known something strange was going on, but she still never in a million years would have guessed this.
“Dean,” said Sam, but that was as far as he got; he looked as stunned as Ruby.
“I know it’s not fancy like her other stuff, but it’s pretty, right? It’ll look good on her?”
With Mary strapped to his chest in a baby carrier and the pendant dangling from his hand, he looked more than passing stupid, and normally she would have laughed her ass off at him. Well, inwardly at least.
She was finding it difficult to summon much amusement at the moment, though.
She’s not coming back, she wanted to tell him, and not even cruelly. She’s in Hell, and she’s going to stay there.
“I thought it would match her eyes,” Dean continued, oblivious to, or else ignoring, their reaction.
“Dean,” Sam began again. He looked like he might cry. She almost reached for his hand.
Dean ignored his brother, staring intently at Ruby. “So what do you think, for Christmas. I’ll have it for her when she gets out. Will she like it?”
“Yes,” Ruby finally managed, because there was nothing else to say. “She’ll like it.”)
Bela didn’t even seem to realize she was playing with it; her eyes were fixed on Ruby.
She recalled the question. “Uh…it’s interesting.”
“I heard you cracked a case wide open. Sirens, was it?”
“Oh, yeah, that.” Ruby preened. “It was pretty awesome.”
“You figured out who the siren was because…I think Dean mentioned something to do with princesses?”
“Her aliases were all Disney princesses,” said Ruby. “Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora. So it was easy to figure out who it was. All we had to was ask around if there were any strippers named Belle or Ella or Snow. We had her pegged before we even knew how to gank her.” She snorted. “Dumbass. Anyone could have figured out her pattern.”
Bela raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure Dean or Sam would have cottoned onto Disney Princesses,” she said drily.
“Oh, well, they don’t count,” said Ruby. “They’re boys. They would have messed it up somehow.”
Bela didn’t return her conspiratorial grin. Instead she said mildly, “Friends I can understand, but demons liking Disney Princesses is a bit more surprising.”
“I never said I liked them,” said Ruby. “And I may be a demon, but I also have two X chromosomes.”
When Bela still didn’t smile, Ruby had to work to keep her own from slipping. Sam hadn’t questioned that response after he said the same thing.
Not like she was going to tell them that the real reason she could name the Disney Princesses was because she’d been seeing the dolls or story books in the bedrooms of Lilith’s child hosts for longer than any of them had been alive.
Before she could think of a distraction, Bela said lightly, “Do you like it? Hunting?”
Ruby chewed on her lips. There was no reason to lie, was there? It wouldn’t have an impact on her cover.
“Yeah,” she admitted. “I like it.”
She’d dreaded it at the very beginning, when Dean was raised at the end of October and she thought they’d be carting Mary around the country in her car seat. During the endless, agonizing hours she spent holed up alone with Mary in a cheap motel while Sam and Dean dealt with the Witnesses, she was convinced that would be her life until they freed Lucifer, babysitting the brat while the brothers played hero.
But much as she’d underestimated Sam’s devotion to his niece while Dean was in Hell, she underestimated Dean’s paternal instinct. After the Rise he’d settled in Brooklyn, and since then his days on the road had been few and far between, usually only when the angels were yanking his chain about the Seals. As far as Ruby knew, he hadn’t left NYC in over two months, since mid-December when he came west to help Anna, leaving Mary with Bobby along the way.
Without Dean and Mary, hunting was…hunting was fun. She liked the travel and pretending to be the authorities and the rush that came from finding the bad guy and wasting him; she liked the simplicity of the hunts, the breaks they posed when she didn’t have to worry constantly about finding them new false leads to chase. And Sam- Sam was a good partner. She’d known that already, of course, but she hadn’t expected to like working with him in this role, too.
She waited for a snarky reply, but instead Bela looked down into her wine glass. “But you’re still searching for Lilith.”
Ruby eyed her; Bela knew the answer. “Yes.”
Ruby knew that Bela knew that, too. She had to, given that Sam and Dean talked on the phone or Skyped just about every day.
“No concrete ones,” she said slowly. “But we’re tracking anything that looks like a Seal. Mass deaths, natural disasters, etc. It’s dual purpose, you know. Try to keep them from breaking and hope that Lilith’s at one of them.”
‘Hope’ being the operative word.
Bela looked up, but not at Ruby’s face. “Is Sam going to be strong enough to take her?”
She didn’t have to say this time for Ruby to hear the words- or the faint trace of accusation in her tone. She wondered if Bela and Dean had ever had it out about the demon blood since her resurrection. Did she blame him for her death? For arguing against the demon blood for so long that Sam barely had time to strengthen his powers before Bela’s contract was up? She and Dean certainly fought enough about it last spring.
Or did she just blame Ruby and Sam, Ruby for “losing” her blonde body to Lilith and missing the big battle, and Sam for not being strong enough to stop Lilith?
Not that Ruby ever would have let Sam become strong enough to kill Lil that early in the game, but Bela didn’t know that.
“Yes,” said Ruby, resisting the urge to touch the half-healed cut on her forearm that she’d finally realized Bela was staring at. “He’ll be strong enough.”
Bela’s eyes glinted. “Good. I hope I’m there to see it.”
Ruby fought a glare. The itch to punch the satisfaction from Bela’s face was almost overwhelming. She tried to block an image of Lilith’s empty, broken body- the blonde one she’d worn to their last meeting- from her mind’s eye.
“I know this isn’t the sort of mission you take a break from,” said Bela, oblivious. “But it’s…it’s good you came. Dean really misses Sam. And tonight…” She let out a sharp, aggravated sigh. “This whole thing is ridiculous, of course, even for them! But…it’s good that they have each other.”
“You mean, it’s good that you don’t have to deal with Dean by yourself,” said Ruby.
Bela barked a laugh. “Yes,” she said. “That’s what I mean.” She cleared her throat and looked down, picking at the seam on the couch cushion. Ruby squinted. Was there a faint tinge to her cheeks?
“And it’s rather nice not to be alone either,” she said, still not looking at Ruby. “I didn’t expect that.”
Ruby stared at her. Her anger over Lilith dulled slightly. “Yeah,” she admitted. “Me neither.”
Bela coughed and took another big gulp of wine. She grabbed the bottle and poured more. “So. Do you know how long you’ll stay? I’m guessing you and Sam didn’t have time to do all the requisite city activities when you had Mary. Broadway? Empire State? If you’re going to be here a few days, you should see something.”
“Oh,” said Ruby, startled by the sudden turn in conversation. “Um, we saw Phantom of the Opera in December. Sam got the tickets.”
Bela raised her eyebrows. “I wouldn’t have figured him for a theatre lover.”
Ruby willed her meat-suit to behave for once and not blush; it didn’t work. “He isn’t. I like Phantom. I saw it with Michael Crawford back when it premiered, and I mentioned it when we first got here and saw the billboards.” She hadn’t mentioned that she’d seen it with Lilith when they were visiting the West End to collect from a headliner whose ten years were up. “The tickets were a, um, a surprise. For Christmas.”
Bela’s smile was far too…smiley. Ruby could just hear the internal aww, even if the thief would never actually say it. She tried not to scowl; that would only make Bela grin more.
“It was fine,” she said, as nonchalantly as she could. “Not like I really care about the show, but you know…it was fine.”
(“And the Phantom was great- not Michael Crawford great, but who is- and the finale. “God give me courage to show you, you are not alone.” “It’s over now, the music of the night.” Isn’t it awesome? The music, I mean. Not the ending. The ending’s the worst. She definitely should have chosen the Phantom. Ugh, not Raoul.”
Ruby broke off abruptly, eyeing him nervously. She hadn’t meant to say that; it didn’t fit her cover. Sam wasn’t a Raoul, but he was the kind who’d like to think he was.
He just laughed, though, like he thought she was adorable. That wasn’t something anyone had done in a very long time. She was finding that applied to a lot of what Sam did these days.
He propped his elbow on the pillow and his cheek on his fist. “So how did this production differ from the one in 1986?”
Ruby stared at him. The production differences had piled up in her mind during the show, but instead of listing them, like a sensible person would, she heard herself say, “The age difference doesn’t bother you?” She’d been thinking about that difference, too, the past few hours; the last time she’d seen Phantom performed, Sam had been three.
He looked surprised but didn’t hesitate. “No. Why would it? If the fact that we’re technically different species doesn’t bother me, why would the age difference?” She knew he had phrased it that way, “different species,” on purpose; he hadn’t called her a demon, like she was to blame.
“It means you’ve seen so much more of history,” Sam continued. “That’s just…that’s neat.”
He was smiling at her again, the corners of his eyes crinkling. She felt a weird fluttering in her chest as she smiled back.
That didn’t mean anything, though. That was just…it was the meat-suit malfunctioning after their recent extra-curriculars. After all, dead bodies weren’t supposed to be having sex.)
Bela was still smirking, dammit. Ruby was scrambling for a change in subject when heavy footfalls thudded on the stairs.
They both whirled. Ruby felt her shoulders slump.
“Hey…” Despite his loud appearance, Dean’s voice came out hushed. He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked between them, brow furrowed. For once, Ruby wouldn’t have mocked his confusion; she wouldn’t have expected to see her and Bela sharing a bottle of wine and chatting like old college roommates either.
“Hey.” Bela didn’t get up, but her gaze was fixed on him so attentively he might as well have been the only person in the room.
“How’s, uh…how’s it going?” said Dean, in a low but weirdly bright tone. His attempt at sounding upbeat was undermined by the fact that he also sounded like he was at a funeral.
Ruby rolled her eyes. She could guess where this was headed.
Bela’s voice was carefully neutral. “Everything’s fine. You?”
“Good,” said Dean. “No, uh, no problems. Mary’s sleeping.”
Ruby wondered if they were still taking turns holding her or if they’d put her in the bassinet, which the boys had carried into the master bedroom for the night.
No, they were probably still holding her. She pictured Sam, cradling his sleeping niece with one hand and holding Ruby’s knife with the other. Her disdain for babies aside, it was not, she had to admit, the most unpleasant mental picture.
“All right,” said Bela.
Dean looked between the women, uncertain; he was probably wondering how Ruby affected his goal. This was a tiny notch in her belt of Messing Up Dean Winchester’s Plans, but she appreciated his befuddlement nevertheless.
“Sure you don’t want to come upstairs and…” He fumbled. “Hang out?”
Ruby curled her knuckles against her mouth to hide her smirk. Hang out. It sounded so foreign on his lips. Not to mention juvenile.
“We could put on a movie. Mary’ll be fine. It won’t wake her.”
“Dean.” Bela’s voice was unmistakably firm now. “I’m fine. I’ll call you if I need anything.”
He gestured at Friends. “We could put this on-”
Ruby could actually see him swallow more protests. For a moment he looked like he was chewing on his tongue. Then he straightened and took a breath. “’Kay.”
As he turned, he met Ruby’s gaze. The look on his face was anything but furtive, and its meaning couldn’t have been clearer.
Ruby felt herself straighten, too. She stared after him as he trudged up the steps, much more slowly than he’d come down them. She should be proud that he trusted her now, that he felt he could depend on her; Lil would have cackled at his gullibility.
That was why she felt flattered, just a bit. Of course. The gullible fool.
She took a gulp of wine to rival Bela’s and reached for the bottle.
“I don’t know why he’s so worried about you,” she rambled, not letting herself think. “He’s the one who was pregnant. If anyone was going to be flambéed tonight, it’d be him.”
It wasn’t until she finished taking another swig and saw Bela’s shocked face that she remembered the boys’ reactions to the same pronouncement. Ruby bit back a sigh, waiting for the reprimand. And things with Bela had been going so well.
Bela burst out laughing.
“Oh my…oh good lord, I never…” Bela doubled over, her shoulders shaking. When she looked up, she was swiping tears from her eyes. “That never occurred to me.” Her giggles were so loud Ruby half expected Dean to come tearing down the stairs, guns in both hands.
All her tension slid away, and Ruby felt herself grin. “The perks of male pregnancy never stop coming, do they.”
Bela composed herself enough to a make a straight face. More-or-less. “I don’t know why anyone would ever use any other method.”
Ruby raised her glass. “Cheers to that.”
They clinked this time.
Bela barely sipped, though, before spitting out, “This is all so ridiculous!” She waved an arm around the apartment, as though Ruby didn’t already know what she meant. “No one’s in danger just because Mary turned six months old today! The demons aren’t going to come for her!”
“Definitely not!” agreed Ruby. In fact, she would have sworn her life on it.
Bela waved her other arm, making the wine splash dangerously close to the rim. “And even if they did, they couldn’t get in! The apartment is protected!”
“I know!” Ruby mock-glared at her. “Thanks for that, by the way! I had to get a tattoo just to get inside.”
Bela made a pffft sound and flapped a hand. “Nothing’s going to happen!”
“Preaching to the choir,” said Ruby. “It’s not even her half birthday anymore! Midnight’s long gone.” Inspiration struck. “Hey…do you want to get out of here? It’s New York. Stuff’s open. We could…we could go to a club!”
She wasn’t entirely sure what she saying, only, bizarrely, that she actually wouldn’t mind going out with the other woman.
Bela sobered, though, the manic indignation fading from her face. “I-” She hesitated. Her eyes rolled up toward the ceiling. “No. I…I can’t.”
Ruby’s instinct was to goad her, accuse her of letting her boyfriend control her, but one look at Bela’s face and she knew that wasn’t the case. Her indignation faded.
Bela wouldn’t stay cooped up in the eye of the Winchester madness, and Ruby suspected she could rant about her baby daddy’s delusions until the cows came home, but in the end, she wouldn’t be leaving Mary in the apartment tonight anymore than the boys would.
Ruby looked down at her glass. “Yeah. Guess not.”
“Raincheck?” said Bela.
“Sure. Whatever.” Ruby shrugged, trying to look supremely indifferent.
They sipped in silence for a few minutes. Bela’s gaze was back on the TV, but her eyes were unfocused, and she didn’t turn the volume back up. Ruby had no idea what the latest was in Central Perk.
Would Sam come down anytime soon to check on her, the way Dean checked on Bela? Not that she needed checking on or anything so stupid.
She couldn’t have left either. He would have been upset if she’d gone to a club. After all, he’d-
“You don’t really think he’d be flambéed, do you?”
Ruby looked at her, startled. Bela was doing a good job hiding it- way better than her lesser half ever did- but Ruby could see her worry.
Ruby’s mouth opened automatically, but she came up blank. Offering words of comfort was so not on her résumé.
“No,” she finally said. “He’d be fine. They have the knife. They have each other. No one’s going to get flambéed.”
Even so, the best Bela managed was a strained little grimace of a smile. She looked so unexpectedly miserable that the question spilled from Ruby before she could think. “Do you love him?”
That was the $64,000 question these days. Sam was constantly bemoaning Dean’s inability to give a straight answer. Lilith kept bugging her for gossip she didn’t have. Ruby had told her everything she knew; Dean and Bela lived together and were raising a child, he’d been even more of an emotional train-wreck than usual while she was in Hell, and he’d bought her roses and chocolate on Valentine’s Day like a good little cliché of a husband, but they still officially slept in separate bedrooms.
Much to Ruby’s surprise and delight, Bela looked like she actually considering the question. When she took a deep breath, Ruby leaned in closer.
“There are only two people in the world I know I love,” said Bela slowly. “My daughter…”
Ruby deflated. It took all of her not inconsiderable willpower to keep from rolling her eyes.
Dean must transmit melodrama like an STD.
“And her father,” said Ruby, trying to sound touched instead of withering.
“My cat,” said Bela.
“Your-” Ruby blinked, wondering if her dead body’s hearing was misfiring. “Your cat?”
Lilith was going to have a field day with this one.
Sam, probably not so much.
Screw dignity. Ruby chortled. “Seriously?”
Bela arched an eyebrow. “Seriously.” She looked up at the ceiling again, expression growing somber. “But…”
“But?” Ruby prompted eagerly.
Bela’s lips thinned. She shook her head. “Nothing. Never mind.”
Ruby didn’t hesitate. “But if there were ever a third person on that list…”
Bela didn’t answer. Her fingers betrayed her, though, stealing inexorably to her necklace.
Ruby settled back into the cushions, trying not to look too pleased with herself.
Bela cleared her throat; the pale flush in her cheeks was unmistakable now. “What about you?”
“What about me what?” asked Ruby absent-mindedly, as she considered when she could next call Lil.
“Do you love Sam?”
(“But he’ll be okay, right? Being Lucifer’s vessel won’t kill him?”
“I don’t know! And I don’t care!” Exasperation had replaced Lilith’s usual bemusement with this line of questioning. She slammed her hair brush on the bedside table and scowled at Ruby. “Why do you care? Do you love him now?” she mocked.
“No! Of course not,” said Ruby quickly. “He’s just a tool.”
“A tool,” repeated Lilith.
“Yes. A tool.” Ruby rose from her sprawl at the end of the king-sized bed and crawled toward Lilith. She paused when their faces were a foot away and leered. “A very big, convenient tool, but just a tool.”
It worked. Lil smirked. Ruby felt an inexplicable stab of relief.
“A tool, huh. She slid one hand up Ruby’s bare thigh but didn’t dip under her nightshirt. Ruby’s breath caught anyway. “I hear you can buy those on the Internet these days.”
“Not in this size,” said Ruby.
Lil pounced. The next thing she knew, Ruby was on her back, legs splayed, Lil’s fingers driving into her.
“Are you telling me you’re moving onto bigger and better things?”
Ruby gasped, arching into her. “Never.”)
“No! I mean, no. I mean-”
Which was better for her cover, to love him or not love him?
Bela was staring at her, eyebrows raised in a way that said in no uncertain terms that Ruby would have to do better than that, but she was also still touching her necklace, and that gave Ruby the answer she needed.
“There are only two people I love, too,” she blurted.
“Ah.” When Ruby didn’t continue, Bela gestured with her glass. “I’m guessing a cat isn’t one of yours.”
(After, Ruby didn’t think; she wrapped her arm around Lil, the same way Sam liked to wrap himself around her.
Lilith stiffened. “What are you doing?”
Ruby froze. “I…” She fought the instinct to snatch her arm back. Her chest felt too heavy. Several seconds passed before she cleared her throat, glad suddenly that Lil was facing away from her. “It’s not like we’re going to have many more chances.”
There was a long pause. Ruby waited for Lilith to laugh at her.
“You’re getting humanly sentimental,” said Lil finally. “It’s deeply unattractive.”
She didn’t move.)
Ruby swallowed. “No,” she agreed. “Not a cat.” Cats were not her fan. At least, Algernon wasn’t. He hadn’t warmed up to her one bit in all the months she and Sam had lived here, even when she fed the damn thing and cleaned its stupid box. He kept his distance when they visited; right now he was probably curled up on the bed with Sam and Dean.
Bela was still looking at her expectantly. Dammit. When she’d been digging for details on Dean, she should have remembered that these girl talk things were normally tit for tat.
“I, uh…my best friend,” said Ruby, doing her best to keep her expression neutral. “From when I was alive. And- my father.”
She loved Lucifer, didn’t she? It didn’t matter that they had never met. He was the father of her race, and when she and Lilith freed him, he would free his children, and she loved him for that.
Bela’s face turned wistful. “You had a good father?”
“Y-yes,” said Ruby. “He’s a- he was a good father. He died when I was young,” she added quickly, lest Bela ask more questions.
Instead of looking sympathetic, like Ruby would have expected from a human, Bela’s expression turned dismissive. “He just didn’t have time to disappoint you then.”
Ruby was too surprised to bristle. She wanted to protest, but no good arguments came to mind- nothing that she could say anyway.
Lucifer wouldn’t disappoint them; he wasn’t capable of it. He’d be the best father of them all- far better than his own.
“But if there were ever a third person on that list?” said Bela.
The glowing eyes in her mind’s eye turned warm and brown, the proud, regal smile into a playful one. Ruby looked down into her glass. “I’m not looking for a third person.”
A minute passed. “All right,” said Bela finally. Ruby looked up to see her shrug; there was no skepticism on the thief’s face.
Bela drained her glass and stood. “Be right back. Another bottle.”
As she walked away, disappointment flashed through Ruby. Which was stupid; she should be relieved that Bela had dropped the matter. And she was. But…
Honestly, she’d been coming to think better of the thief. Here she was, taking Ruby’s inexcusably clumsy denials at face value.
Not that there was anything below face value.
But Bela didn’t know that.
She held out her glass when Bela offered the new bottle and had just taken a sip when Bela said casually, “So if you don’t love him, why are you here?”
Ruby spluttered into her glass. When she was done choking, she found Bela looking at her with one raised, damnably perceptive eyebrow.
Ruby took it all back. Bela wasn’t likable at all. In fact, Ruby would quite like to stab her.
“I…I’m here because…”
(“I have to be there.”
Sam turned on his heel and stalked into the bathroom.
“Fine!” Ruby shouted over the clattering of toiletries. “Go!” She worked to lower her voice. She was not a clingy girlfriend. Besides, it wasn’t even his leaving that annoyed her. In fact, she was fine with that; she’d been waiting for ages for a chance to meet up with Lil; they hardly got to see each other now that she and Sam traveled together full time.
No, she was annoyed because Sam was being stupid and paranoid, and he was better than that.
“I’ll stay here and see what I can find on Lilith,” she continued. “You go do your…” Delusional, co-dependent exercise in self-torture. “Brother thing.”
Sam popped out of the bathroom so fast she jumped. The anxious look on his face made her go still.
“You’re not coming? Ruby…” He strode to her and took her hands. His anger had vanished. “You have to! I mean- I need- I’d really like it if you were there. Come with me?”
Ruby stared up at him. In the corner of her eye, Lil waited. His thumb rubbed over her knuckles.
Ruby closed her mouth. When she opened it again, gaze fixed resolutely ahead at the TV, it was only to resume drinking. Bela didn’t say a word.
Not for a little while anyway. “Few more hours,” she said, eyeing the clock. “This night is never-ending, isn’t it?”
Ruby shrugged and leaned forward to grab the remote from the table. She turned up the volume.
They sat in silence, waiting for dawn.